A year ago, if you would have asked me how often my children ate at McDonald’s, I would have made a funny face and muttered something about “as little as possible.”

I had this whole routine down where my oldest would beg and beg to stop there on the way home from daycare every evening and I would say, “McDonald’s is not healthy food. We only eat there on special occasions. You can choose to eat there on your birthday!”

For most of my adult-life, McDonald’s has represented all that is wrong with our country’s eating habits, obesity as a nation and periods of my own unhealthy binging. It represented danger and overweight children and overweight adults (including me). I did not want my children to think that “Happy Meals” were everyday foods. I did not want them thinking McDonald’s was normal for us.

Of course, I’m picking on McDonald’s here – mention any fast food restaurant that serves toys to children and I’ll gladly put them in the same category.

And then something happened. One day, my children came home from spending the weekend with their father telling me stories about McDonald’s. How my daughter, who has severe food allergies, was now able to eat there. They were jumping up and down with excitement telling me all about it (okay, perhaps the jumping is just in my memory, but there was definite excitement).

Over the next 48 hours there were a few discussions between me and their father … and me and the manager at my local McDonald’s… researching how on earth the Chicken McNuggets could actually be safe for my child.

And it turns out, they are – at least in terms of food allergies. No egg, no dairy, no peanuts or tree nuts, and no cross contamination issue. Of course they sure are not my definition of healthy or the organic version of chicken nuggets I buy from Whole Foods to serve at home. But they ARE something my daughter can eat from a restaurant without going into anaphylactic shock. And well, that’s something.

I tried to force myself to think of it from her point of view. “The chicken nuggets are SAFE FOR ME!” she said in her little four year old voice, with wide eyes like it was Christmas morning. Suddenly, going to McDonald’s was a way for my little girl to suddenly be like her sibling and the other kids who eat out. She can have a real Happy Meal with Chicken McNuggets and apple juice and apple slices (no fries, because they have a milk protein in them).

And then I began to realize the convenience of eating out with my children or running through a drive through without having to pack a meal before leaving the house… for the first time in three years.

Over the course of the last 6 months, McDonald’s went from being dangerous and evil (in my mind)… to (kind of) normal. It reminds me of when my oldest was an infant and how I kept him away from the TV for a full year, trying for 2. And how I was disappointed to hear the TV was on at daycare AT ALL when he was awake, for fear he might watch it. By the time my second child came along, TV was no longer evil – it was normal. I simply had bigger fish to fry than worrying about my child catching 30 seconds (or minutes) of TV in between playing with her stuffed animals.

This experience has really taught me something about being a parent. About my opinions and my influence on my children. About finding balance and moderation. About helping my daughter to feel normal in a world where she is constantly asking, “is this safe for me?” And about watching how much I judge others, because you never know how they ended up there.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suddenly endorsing McDonald’s or suggesting you all go there. You won’t find me hosting sponsored blog posts or giving away coupons for Happy Meals. I much prefer eating at Chipotle with my kiddos – another safe place for my daughter’s food allergies. I appreciate their approach to food, which includes a higher portion of natural/organic/locally sourced foods. But those are really the only two places that we’ve had consistent success and can order relatively quickly without needing a whole lot of accommodations for food allergies.

They’ve both made my life easier and my daughter’s life a little less different. And my mind a little more open. And for that I’m thankful.


You can find more of my food allergy posts, tips & recipes on my Food Allergy page. I’d also love to connect with you on my Marketing Mama facebook page and twitter. This post, and all posts on this blog, are written from my experiences as a parent of a child with food allergies. I am not a medical expert and encourage you to consult with a doctor on your personal medical situation.

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19 Responses to “Eating my words about McDonald’s”

  1. SarahJaneML says:

    It’s okay to admit it, Missy. We’ve all caved and gave in to the convenience of Mickey D’s. 😉 (Their sweet minty Shamrock shakes with salty fries are evil decadence this month!!!!) :/ 🙂

    • Missy says:

      God I’ve avoided that Shamrock Shake – but it sure is tempting!!! I may break down with a small. That’s the challenge of going there for the kids is I really don’t feel like there are good options for me to eat. Thanks 🙂

  2. Amy says:

    Missy, I’m so glad MCD works for Avery – so many of take this convenience for granted – myself included! We have worked really hard to keep fries out of our various kids meals – always apple slices or applesauce or whatever the “healthier” choice is. As the kids have gotten older, I’ve been giving more choices – if you want fries, you must have milk. You’d be surprised how often they choose carrots or apples just to have lemonade (at a sit down restaurant)! I realize that’s not really an option for you, but just another way I try to keep my kids healthy!

    • Missy says:

      Interesting about giving your kids choices, Amy – love it! The McD down here has started giving a small fry and apples in every meal. Interesting – I used to make my oldest choose white milk with fries or chocolate milk with apples to give him a choice in the matter like you… now McD made it tougher… Thanks for reading and the comment.

  3. Jamie H says:

    Huh, who would have thought McDonald’s chicken nuggets would be “safe”!? Though I too agree that it is not the healthiest of places, I am very glad your daughter can have a place to feel normal!

    • Missy says:

      I know, right? I still don’t feel good about the nutrition content, etc., but do feel like it can be an occasional meal. Thanks Jamie!

  4. kari larson says:

    The smallest things can really make a big difference in helping a kid feel “normal.” And your point to not judge people because you never know how they got to where they are at is something I wish more parents embraced!

  5. abby says:

    LOVE this post because we are in the exact same boat. I hate to eat McDdonalds too often but it’s one of two safe “faster food” places that we can get food for Bo (like you said chipotle is our other one). It’s so hard to ALWAYS have to pack a meal and to never just grab something on the go so we feel lucky too that their is one fast food place that we know we can get something for Bo. Bo also eats their hamburgers and he eats their fries and we’ve never had a reaction. I had read that the milk protein is cooked at such high temperature that it’s o.k. for milk allergic kids to eat without a reaction… I will have to find the blog/article where I read this but I will try to dig up for you. Bo is not a huge fan of the fries he will usually eat just a couple…so maybe we’ve just gotten lucky but he’s never had a reaction from McDonalds – fingers crossed that I am not going to jinx myself here.

    • Missy says:

      Thanks Abby – I’ve thought about trying the fries but hate to take chances (saw that same info re: the hydrolized protein). We are doing a food challenge soon with Milk and then I’ll revisit that idea. Do the happy meal kid buns have sesame seeds? We are supposed to avoid sesame, too. Thanks for sharing – always good to know others are in the same boat. xo

  6. abby says:

    The happy meal buns do not have sesame seeds on them! I totally understand the fry thing. We had given them to Bo before i even knew there was a milk protein in them and before I knew how severe his food allergies we knew he could eat them but had we not already know that I would be like you too and just not want to risk it – totally get that!

    • Missy says:

      Thanks again Abby. Just looked it up and it seems the hamburger option will also work for us. Appreciate the insight!

  7. Hey Missy,
    Thanks for sharing. Elijah’s never eaten at McDonald’s (he’s four and a half). I’m actually kind of excited that he could eat there (he’s also allergic to dairy and eggs). No, it’s not the healthiest place, but I’m of the mindset that a once in a while splurge isn’t a problem (it’s when it becomes a habit that I’d be more worried).

    A few months back I drove past our local McDonald’s and saw all the kids playing in the indoor playground and I actually got tears in my eyes. Elijah has CP and I’ve thought it would be good therapy for him to play in those structures (not to mention fun), but with his allergies I couldn’t fathom taking him somewhere he couldn’t even eat. I couldn’t help but grieve over one more thing that made us different.

    So, yes McD’s isn’t the healthiest, but I think it’s more important sometimes to just feel like a “normal” family. I’m looking forward to getting Elijah some nuggets and letting him climb on the play structures – all the while rejoicing in the healthy and unhealthy experiences that make up our lives.
    Thanks, Missy.

  8. Theo Dirollo says:

    A lot of the important things on the planet have been accomplished by folks who suffer from kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope in any way.
    Folks who wants help love but just with distaste, it is advisable that you should leave work.

  9. Tanya says:

    I love that you have found a restaurant you can feel ‘normal’ going to! Keep searching, as there are a few more out there that you can do. We used to go to McD’s, but we were one of the people effected by the (undeclared at that time) dairy in the fries. I tell everyone this- be aware of atypical reactions after eating there. They have been sued (class action) twice for dishonesty in disclosing ingredient information. As in the deliberately chose to omit ingredients from their ingredients listings. Because of this we don’t feel comfortable patronizing them. So, while I encourage you to enjoy your new found dinner, please be watchful.

  10. Tim says:

    We just started investigating Chicken Nuggets….thank you! My 6 year old daughter has the same severe allergies…milk, egg, peanut. what does your daughter eat at chipotle?

    • Missy says:

      Hi Tim – at Chipotle, the tortillas, rice and meats, chips and veggies are all safe for my daughter. But they have sour cream and shredded cheese at the end of the line and I don’t think it’s 100% failsafe that they keep everything separate. In the beginning I would let her have a tortilla with rice (the meat is too spicy for her and chips. She doesn’t seem to like it though – so now I just get rice for her in a bowl. I ask them to put on clean gloves and then have them fill up a ‘bowl’ with the rice – as much as they’ll give me, and put a lid on it. Then I open it at the table and she eats some of that plus other food I bring from home. She loves the rice. 🙂

  11. Marie says:

    Hi, My son 5 1/2 almost had an anaphylaxis reaction yesterday after he took a bite or two from the regular happy meal hamburger. He is allergic to milk, eggs, peanuts and fish. All of these allergens found at McDonalds. Normally we get him the chicken nuggets and he had done ok with them but I don’t want to risk him any more. I guess he has been tiered of chicken nuggets for some time and he wanted to experience the burger. He had already had one from another restaurant and he had been ok, but not last night. In less than 2 min my son was vomiting, wheezing like never before. Gave him benadryl, took out his nebulizing machine and called 911. I should of given him the epipen wasnt sure to do it. I know now not to wait anymore if it happens again. I just want to say be careful with your kids. There are just too many possibilities that food will be cross contaminated. I still dont know what caused the reaction, maybe cheese cross contamination but I am not willing to put him through that anymore.

  12. Martin says:

    Prevention is better than cure, DO NOT EAT AT McD’s and any other fast food outlet. There is nothing with nutritional value, only high in sugar, carbohydrates and additives we don’t know about. So don’t let your kids eat there or they will end up with type 2 diabetes.
    It’s not even good to have once a week!!!! Have your kids help you in the kitchen and teach them a healthy diet, they will thank you when they are older.
    These business’s are only concerned in making money and not anyone’s health.



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